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Back to school
Ziya’s teachers have started suggesting that I invest more in her focus on school work and a routine of revision. She’ll need this in order to not experience Junior 1, next year, as an overwhelming leap in demands, pressure and material to be covered.
The girl is dreamy, drifting away from whatever she is assigned to doodle on her notebook pages, wanting to fall asleep on afternoons, more interested in chatting, drawing and play, and sometimes outright inattentive. So, I’m appreciative of her teachers’ insights and advice.
I’m also committed to developing her motivation and concentration, and guiding her to write more quickly and neatly, and take more initiative to complete homework.
I’d like her to feel confident and capable of tackling learning and responsibility challenges, and to begin to develop the habits and skills to do so.
Another part of me is protective of her dreaminess and distraction. I think dreaminess and imagination are wonders and rights of childhood.
I think her brain transitions to doodling when she gets bored, and that school shouldn’t consist of years of mostly boredom, which it was for the majority of us. Children get bored because of how they are taught so the challenge to adapt is for us, not them.
Does homework systematically nurture children’s creativity, courage, caring or love for learning, especially when it often consists of tired and frustrated parents buffing up tired and frustrated children?
I’m unconvinced that “alternative” assignments that require parents to search the Internet or spend nights helping to put together projects really present displays of independent effort.
I’d rather Zi spend her evenings drumming or dancing than doing more writing at this stage.
I think we should go to the river or waterfalls every weekend rather than sacrifice them for revision. And, I think these sentiments are appropriate for the mother of a child just six years old.
I have many reasons for these priorities. First, I’d like Zi to learn to love learning more than I’m concerned with how much content she learns.
I spent 28 years in school and did my best learning when I loved my subjects, and that didn’t start to happen until university.
Second, I think that children grow into school practices at different rates and our homogenising system misses this fact of childhood development.
Maybe at six she doesn’t care about school for more than half of the allotted time for a subject, maybe some teaching styles are sheer tedium, maybe she won’t begin to reach her peak or potential for another couple of years.
None of that speaks to her capacity for self-determination in adult life, but it could compromise that defining moment of childhood, SEA, which unfortunately establishes the overarching rationale for parents’ schooling decisions.
Third, I teach university students.
Many come afraid of experimenting or getting things wrong, asking for example essays rather than trying to find their own voice, wanting instructions for every step of assignments rather than to be able to figure it out, terrified or passive about communicating confusions or critiques with lecturers, pessimistic rather than utopian, disengaged from social transformation rather than demanding it, expecting good grades for mediocre work, and unclear about their responsibility to improve not only their lives, but the world.
Marley called it “head-decay-shun.” Our courses have to pull out passion, political will, purpose, creativity, empowerment and a sense of care and humanity.
It’s in the students already, just hardly still prioritised. When rewarded, I’ve seen so many of them spark. I’m also most likely to hire young women and men who bring unusual ideas and angles, who aim beyond the status quo, can devise solutions and strategies, and are ethical, fearless and self-motivated.
Passed tests matter, but not really. I’d rather a hunger for new experiences, lessons and opportunities to contribute.
As a mother, I see Ziya starting a schooling path that many have gone through, and survived just fine, some better than others.
As an educator and employer, I also see the end results and its myriad costs.
Come Monday, when school starts, I’ll still be wondering how to negotiate my own learning philosophy with that of the system of which we are also a part.